The paper is a continuation of the author’s earlier studies in which she argues that it is the mispronunciation of whole words due to their incorrect phonological storage in the learners’ phonetic memory that is more detrimental to successful communication via English than an inaccurate production of individual segments and suprasegmentals. Consequently, phonetically difficult words deserve to be thoroughly investigated and pedagogically prioritized.
The present study is a report on an experiment in which 20 English Department students, all advanced learners of English, were recorded having been asked to read a list of diagnostic sentences containing 80 words known to be problematic for Poles in terms of their pronunciation. This has been done in order to isolate and examine the major error types, to establish a hierarchy of difficulty among 8 sources of pronunciation errors, to compare the obtained results with the most common error types made by intermediate learners and to juxtapose the participants’ subjective evaluation of the phonetic difficulty of words with their actual phonetic performance. The final goal is to draw pedagogical implications for the phonetic training of advanced students of English.